Knitting Suggestions

Rhythmic handwork is part of Oak Meadow’s coursework for grades one through three. For this post, K-8 Oak Meadow teachers teamed up to offer some suggestions and simple alternatives that will help to meet the “heart” of handwork, specifically in teaching the technique of knitting.

Meg Minehan: My suggestions are to first try finger knitting, the knitting mushroom, or the wooden knitting star. My children loved those “tools,” and the process was simple, repetitive, and soothing (just like knitting should be). ​For what it’s worth, my son Ian didn’t really take to knitting when it was initially introduced in first grade. However, he picked it up again at age nine and loved it.

Michelle Menegaz: I agree that teaching knitting as an inexperienced teacher can be challenging. I suggest offering the “pre-knitting” activities and really encourage the home teacher to find a knitter to help them, if possible. Also, Sunny’s Mittens is a great book with a story that contains knitting directions right in the events of the tale. I would read a bit of this and knit along with the story. The child would also knit along, if interested. We would read a bit, knit a bit, stop and get our knitting sorted or show what the written directions in the story meant. Very satisfying!

Lesley Arnold: I highly recommend the DVD, The Art of Knitting 4 Kids . If a tutor isn’t available for knitting, then this video is great! Be sure to also check your library, for many libraries have knitting clubs.

Leslie Daniels: Another site that I absolutely adore and share with my Oak Meadow families is called “Knitted Bliss.” It includes story books to inspire future knitters for three different age groups: ages 2-4, ages 4-6, and ages 6-9. The title of each book is a joy in itself!

Meg Minehan: Shall I Knit You a Hat is one of our favorite Christmas books for 6-9 year olds!

Andy Kilroy: My friend Clare, a long-time kindergarten teacher, loves to take yarn into her classroom and just let her kids play with the yarn – wrap it, wind it, tie bows with it, braid it, touch it – just to get the feel of fabric/yarn on their skin. Then when it comes time to knit, they already have the awareness of yarn as a material. I taught my granddaughter to finger knit (she had never done it), and she was very excited at all the possibilities that opened for her! She has also enjoyed exploring loom knitting from kits. Long live fiber arts – let’s not give up on them!

Anna Logowitz: My microschoolers got a great start by making their own knitting needles. They sanded chopsticks smooth, and then glued wooden beads to the ends: nice and simple. It gave them a sense of ownership over their work before they began knitting, which also seemed to increase their frustration tolerance!

Handwork in Winter

Hand (Unknown author)

Take my hand, imagine
What it will be someday
A hand that’s strong, a hand that’s kind
Is this what you forsee?

A hand that’s skilled, a hand that’s sure
A hand that someday may,
Take another little hand
and guide it on its way.

Oak Meadow’s kindergarten coursework introduces the art of finger knitting, the first-grade coursework introduces knitting with needles, and the second-grade coursework introduces crocheting. The main purpose of teaching children these creative, yet practical skills at this level of development is to refine and strengthen fine motor development and eye-hand coordination. It also aids in the preparation for learning math, reading and writing with more ease and less fatigue.

Sometimes a student will find these craft skills challenging to acquire. Perhaps it is because the home teacher does not know how to knit or crochet and finds it difficult to teach, or perhaps it is due to a child’s hands and fingers not nimble enough to handle working with yarn and/or needles. When the students are introduced to the handcraft at the beginning of the school year, it is often when they are still actively involved in outdoor play; therefore, learning this skill may be even more difficult for an active child to sit still for a time to master the skill. If you have experienced this with your own child and decided to set it aside, then the winter season may be the perfect time to reintroduce the suggested handwork. You might be surprised at the willingness and readiness in your child to try it again!

It’s important that that your child starts out with something comfortable, so if your child has never been introduced to finger knitting, you might try starting with the basics of finger knitting before working with needle knitting and crocheting. Taking time in developing the skill, even if it means knitting or crocheting only for a short time each day, is still providing the tools for healthy physiological development. Working alongside with your child, listening to quiet background music or a story tape, or even telling a handwork story to accompany the project could encourage more enthusiasm. Here’s a little video with a story that might help introduce finger knitting.

Any other type of activity that includes repetition and rhythm in movement will work well, too! If you have already re-visited the suggested Oak Meadow projects and discover they are still frustrating or uninteresting to your child, then keep in mind that developing fine motor control, no matter what the activity, should be the main focus of the student. Perhaps knitting with a fork or with a spool might be excellent substitutes.

Other craft activities that offer rhythm and repetition include beading, weaving, sewing by hand, lacing cards, stringing popcorn and cranberries (including for the winter bird residents), and building patterns with various materials. Be creative and work with something that creates enjoyment, for it is the joy of the process that furthers the healthy development.

Board Games = Fun!

PLAY, PLAY, PLAY!

After the holidays, the one memory that lingers the longest for me is the fun my family had playing a board game together. There is something about sitting together, watching each other smile, laugh, grimace, and pout!

I’m not talking about a video or online board game. I’m talking about an actual game that has a board that one unfolds from a real box. I like to play a real board game in which one can feel the pieces and move them with one’s own hand. I like a game with a lot of pieces that has to be set up before the game can begin. I also like a game in which I could choose to be two or three players, and I also like a game with a bit of intrigue! Catan is a front-runner, and the games of Clue and Monopoly happen to be favorites of my family because they can take so long to play. We start a game and take a break for a snack or lunch and go back to it when we’re ready. Sometimes we even finish a game the next day.

A board game is a lot more than fun. It’s imagining strategy, thinking through moves, and creating logical outcomes. It is also practice for some important skills that we all use in our daily lives. We practice cooperation, we learn how to compromise, we work together through collaboration. Playing a board game with family and friends also gives us time to practice sympathy, compassion, and empathy with our fellow players.

I’ve played so many fun games! I love Scattergories, Apples to Apples, and the new game Sagrada is quick and fun! What games are your favorites?

Favorite Family Traditions

December has arrived, which finds most of us in the full swing of holiday activities that connect us with seasonal rhythms of nature. Many of these festivities are surrounded by family and food, and a time for celebrating traditions. The most important tradition for the holiday season isn’t purchased at a store or doesn’t come wrapped in a package. Instead, it is spending time with family and friends. The memories made with those most precious to you can last a lifetime.
Here are ten ways to enjoy your holiday season with favorite family traditions:

  • Start a Family Memory Book – Everyone loves something made by hand, so why not create a family memory book? Every year, have each family member draw a picture of a favorite holiday activity, or even add a special photo to the book. These will be treasured as the pages and years grow in numbers.
  • Play Family Games – Holiday-themed charades can fill your home with laughter and joy! Playing a new board game every year is another enjoyable way to share quality time together.
  • Camp Out in the Living Room – Enjoy a family campout right in your living room. Light candles or a fire in the fireplace, play holiday music, sing songs together, and cozy up for a night with visions of sugarplums dancing in your head.
  • Share Stories – Read one of your childhood’s favorite holiday stories aloud as a family. Telling stories about your personal childhood will especially delight your children.
  • Act Out Stories – Acting out a holiday story can be a memorable tradition. Writing your own family play and presenting it to extended family members and friends is always exciting. You might even like to videotape it, start a new videotape every year, and then plan to watch the video of your family’s past year’s performance.
  • Be Playful – Your imaginations can soar with creativity and playfulness! Hide some of the holiday gifts instead of putting them in their regular place. Write out little clues and follow footprints made by the elves.
  • Be Secretive – Children love secrets! Make some extra traditional holiday cookies or special treats and secretly place a plateful at a neighbor’s door. There is nothing like making everyone smile as this little mystery is unfolded and solved!
  • Learn About Other Cultural Traditions – Go to the library and pick out stories of holidays in other cultures. Make a traditional meal or complete a craft project related to one of the cultural festivities.
  • Gift Yourself by Giving to Others – Have your children pick out one of their own toys, games, or clothes – something they like and think would be a joy to share with others. Go together to a local shelter to hand out the presents.
  • Invent Your Own Family Tradition – If you’re looking for a special way to bring your family closer this year, come up with your own favorite family tradition. The most valuable and long-lasting traditions start in the heart of your family.
Photo Credit: Spreading a Little Kindness

The Nutcracker Ballet

One of my favorite traditions during this time of year is watching the annual production of “The Nutcracker Ballet”. This grand holiday tradition dazzles and delights the audience with spectacular choreographed dancing, beautiful costumes, glorious scenery, and pyrotechnical magic as the brilliance of Tchaikovsky’s symphonic music is brought to life. “The Nutcracker” production is a very special performance for me, as it always brings back warm and wonderful memories of a magical family event during my children’s early home schooling years.
If taking your children to see “The Nutcracker Ballet” is a part of your holiday plans, then I highly recommend filling your home with the amazing orchestral soundtrack before you attend the performance. Since the performance is “told” in the form of music and dance, I also recommend reading aloud the story so your children can better understand the storyline during the performance. There are many books written about the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. One of my favorites is the original tale of Nutcracker, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann (in 1816), translated by Ralph Manheim, and illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
If you are also interested in sharing a little history of this special ballet with your children, then I recommend the book, The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition, written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Cathy Gendron.
Who would ever have thought that during WW II, three small-town Utah boys interested in ballet would have  started this annual holiday tradition? “The Nutcracker Ballet” has retained its freshness because it appeals to the sense of wonder in both children and adults. It is a memorable and magical event that every family should enjoy together at least once, if not every year as a family tradition.

Oak Meadow 2017 Poetry Extravaganza – Part I

At Oak Meadow, we celebrate student poetry during our annual Poetry Extravaganza. In April, we invited our enrolled students to submit their favorite original poems. We hope you will enjoy their poems as much as we do!

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Photo Credit: Melissa Lewis
(Oak Meadow)

Desserts
by Danica O’Donohoe
Oak Meadow Grade K
Sweet treats
Bake cake
Kids want to scream for ice cream
Yummy in my tummy!
 
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Photo Credit: Tracey Watts
(Oak Meadow)

An Angel and a Bird
by Carlos Checa-Sacasa
Oak Meadow Grade 3
Once there was a bird
who heard a whisper in the air
the bird flew towards the voice
and saw an angel there
Feathers, flowers and light
it was quite a sight
An angel and a bird in flight
 
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Photo Credit: Laura Kelly
(Oak Meadow)

Freddy Lives On
By Deanna Oakes
Oak Meadow, Grade 6
In front of the fire,
At the foot of the bed,
In the warm sun,
At the homestead,
Freddy is gone.
Freddy is gone, but his memory lives on.
He rode in the truck,
He played with his toys,
He snored real loud,
But he didn’t like noise.
Freddy’s memory lives on,
He will never truly be gone.
“Last year, my librarian’s friend was grieving the passing of her dog, who had recently passed away. Her friend was very sad, so Mrs. Hoffman, my librarian, asked me to write a poem in memory of Freddy, the dog. She told me a little about Freddy, and I used what I learned about him to write this poem. It was wonderful to gift this poem to her; she loved it.”
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Flat Stanley

“People should think twice before making rude remarks,” said Mrs. Lambchop. “And then not make them at all.” ― Jeff Brown, Author of Flat Stanley

Author Jeff Brown created the beloved character of Flat Stanley as a bedtime story for his sons before it was first published in 1964. If you or your children have ever read the Flat Stanley books, then you will know that Stanley Lampchop had a mishap that made him famously flat. Rather than viewing his new physique as an unfortunate circumstance, this paper-thin boy turned his life into an amazing adventure of sliding under doors, flying like a kite, and traveling by mail.
In 1994, Canadian Dale Hubert created The Flat Stanley Project. He encouraged children to create their own Flat Stanley paper cutouts and mail them to friends and family members around the globe. His original idea was shared with his class of third grade students to help foster literacy activities and to introduce creative writing. Hubert also suggested that other teachers participate by hosting Flat Stanley visitors who arrived by mail. Now children (and adults) from all over the world are making their own versions of Flat Stanley from templates and mailing them to friends and family during their travels.

Photo Credit: Leslie Ann Daniels

I took The Flat Stanley Project a step further and photographed the bright cheerful faces of my local home school students. They then each created their own Flat Me. We had a great time creating colorful outfits and then sharing with friends and families by talking, tracking, and writing about their flat character’s journeys and adventures.
May 8 celebrates Flat Stanley’s fifty-third birthday. So, enjoy this world-famous story character by reading one of Jeff Brown’s books or creating and sending your own Flat Stanley or Flat Me to someone special!
Photo Credit: Danielle Drown

Photo Credit: Danielle Drown

Photo Credit: Danielle Drown

12 Ways to Foster Hands-On Creativity at Home (Even If You Don’t Feel Creative)

Does the idea that homeschooling parents need to be naturally artistic or compulsively creative stop you from trying? Don’t be fooled! Although there are plenty of parents who enjoy doing arts and crafts with their children, there are plenty who don’t. You can foster your children’s creative and artistic streaks even if you’re not sitting down at the table and eagerly leading the way. Here are some ideas to get you started and keep you moving forward:
1. Provide a variety of creative materials. Start by stocking up on basic, kid-friendly, age-appropriate supplies.

Photo Credit: Abbie L.
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Here are some possibilities:

Here are some other things that can be fun to have around:

  • wooden craft sticks
  • a hole punch
  • chalks, oil crayons, watercolor pencils, and other colorful drawing materials
  • fun patterned paper (origami paper, doilies, scrapbooking paper)
  • scissors with patterned edges
  • a straightedge or ruler
  • a stapler
  • play-dough, clay, beeswax, and other modeling media
  • wool roving
  • fabric scraps
  • random collage materials (feathers, sequins, beads, cutout shapes)
  • string, ribbon, embroidery thread
  • needles of various sizes
  • scrap cardboard and other reclaimed materials

Photo Credit: Warf Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

2. Establish a comfortable, easy-clean area for creating. It’s ideal to have a separate area with a table and nearby storage if possible. But if you don’t have abundant space, a vinyl tablecloth can protect any table or floor area from creative messes. Just shake or wipe down the tablecloth and put it away for the next round of creativity. Good lighting is also very helpful.
3. Store most materials in an accessible, kid-friendly way, with the important exception of anything you want to supervise. Some materials, particularly messy ones, might be available to young artists only “on request” until you’re sure they can handle the responsibility that such materials require. Even more important than making materials easily accessible is making it easy to store them away when the creating is done.
4. Remember that you do not have to teach your children how to create! Children are inherently creative beings. If you are not the sort of person who wants to patiently teach the proper methods, it’s perfectly fine to explain any safety points, and then just get out of the way and let your children figure things out for themselves. You might be surprised by what they come up with.
Photo Credit: Lynn Nash
(Oak Meadow Archives)

5. Open-ended situations allow for the widest range of creativity. Offering a variety of basic materials that feel good to use can bring about much more creativity than a preassembled kit for making a particular end product. You might encourage your children to think up new ways to use what they have at hand by saying something like, “Lots of people only paint with a paintbrush; can you think of any other good ways to apply paint to paper?”
6. There is no wrong way to be creative. Keep your own preconceived ideas out of it! Your child should be the one to decide what they will create and then explain to you in their own way what their creations mean. When your child inevitably asks, “What should I make?” follow it with, “What do you feel like making?” or “This is your project, so I can’t decide for you. What do you think you should make?”
Photo Credit: Jennie Smith-Pariola
(Oak Meadow Archives)

7. Look to nature for variety and inspiration as needed. Go scavenging outdoors as a family, and bring natural materials back to your craft area. Encourage your children to incorporate them into their creations. Ask them to draw or paint or create a likeness of something they enjoyed seeing outside or make a mobile with their found objects.
8. Less can be more! One tool. One color. One type of material. Keeping it simple can help prevent everyone from feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes having all possible materials staring at you at once can stop you in your creative tracks. If that happens, let simplicity be your guide. “What could we make if we only had paper and tape to work with?”
9. Be proactive about managing stress. Messy projects can be stressful for those who have to help clean them up! Set up your creative space for easy cleanup by keeping trash/recycling containers, a broom and dustpan, and a sponge handy. Keep smocks and/or aprons nearby. Cafeteria trays can also be helpful for containing bits and pieces. For projects with huge mess potential, consider setting up a creative space outdoors for easier cleanup.
Photo Credit: Neigh Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

10. Figure out your own challenges with creativity. What holds you back personally from feeling creative? Can you identify why you don’t feel like a creative person? Acknowledge your reasons, but don’t pass them on to your children. There is no right or wrong way to create. Be gentle with yourself, and if you feel inspired to pick up a piece of modeling wax or put crayon to paper yourself, go ahead and see what flows.
11. When in doubt, follow the rainbow. It’s helpful to own a rainbow’s worth of colors of materials when possible: paper, crayons, paint, modeling wax. Sometimes all colors will be used, but sometimes choosing just one color at a time to explore with your child can also be very freeing. “How many different ways can we think of to create with the color red?”
Photo Credit: Cindie Young
(Oak Meadow Archives)

12. Remember that the joy is in the process! Many decisions are part of a creative experience, from choosing materials and colors, to predicting the outcome of an action, to deciding how to respond to the results partway through, to deciding when a particular project is finished. Creating can also be a highly sensory experience, allowing a child to integrate sight and touch, and in some cases sound, smell, and/or taste. It can also be extremely imaginative – you may find your child narrating their creative process or creating a story about their creation. Be open to the value of the process itself, and don’t worry if the project gets abandoned before it is finished. One of the best rewards of fostering a creative experience is hearing your child say, “That was fun!”

A Festive Time of Year!

See the little candles shining, shining bright?
Oh, how we love to see their light!
E. Kudor and T. Melia
The winter solstice has arrived in the northern hemisphere! For many people and many cultures, it is a festive time of year, and the activities are often centered around festivals. Festivals connect us with seasonal rhythms of nature and the cosmos. These celebrations can be as simple as preparing a seasonal food, sharing a special story, completing a handcraft project, making a seasonal table, or having a party with friends and family members.

Photo Credit: Rhonda Baird

In celebration of the winter solstice, I annually host a Winter Garden Spiral Walk for my local home school students and their families. It is a time when all are “invited” to go inward and kindle our inner light to bring into the world and share with others. For those who are unfamiliar with the Winter Garden Spiral, or Advent Spiral as it is often called, it is an old European tradition. Evergreen boughs are laid on the floor (if held inside) or on the ground (if held outside) in the form of a spiral. I like to adorn my spiral with watercolor painted stars, wooden animals, felted gnomes, elves and angels, and elements of nature (such as seashells, pine cones, rocks and crystals, colorful berries, etc.) In the center of the spiral is a lit candle that represents the coming of light into the darkness. With only this one candle initially lit, each person takes a turn to walk the spiral holding an apple containing an unlit candle. Some individuals choose to walk in silence, while others choose to recite a verse or to sing a song that others can help sing. As the person reaches the center, the unlit candle is lit from the center candle. Walking back out of the spiral, a place is chosen along the spiral to set the apple with the lit candle. As each person has a turn, more and more lit candles grace the spiral, and the space becomes increasingly filled with light. It truly is a beautiful experience and one of my favorite festivities of the year.
Photo Credit: Leslie Daniels

Some of my favorite winter solstice books for children include: The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer, The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson, and A Solstice Tree for Jenny by Karen Shragg. If you are interested in learning more about other seasonal festivals, here is a list of books that offer creative ideas and projects: Festivals, Family and Food by Diana Carey and Judy Large; A Child’s Seasonal Treasury compiled and written by Betty Jones; Celebrating Festivals with Children by Freya Jaffke; The Nature Corner: Celebrating the Year’s Cycle with a Seasonal Table by M. V. Leeuwen; and A Time to Keep – The Tasha Tudor Book of Holidays by Tasha Tudor.
Happy Solstice! Happy Holidays!! And Happy New Year!
 

Exploring Science through Illustrations

“A natural science illustrator is an artist who works in the service of science, creating images of animals, objects and complex processes that teach, inform, and create understanding of our world.” Guild of Natural Science Illustrators: https://www.gnsi.org/

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From the Oak Meadow Archives

I’ve become fascinated with the illustrations my Oak Meadow students did this year in conjunction with their science lessons. Many were exceptional in the intricate details of the drawings and I could tell that a lot of effort, time, and research was put into them. In the 7th grade Earth Science, a student researched the structure of a leaf, found which part was responsible for transpiration, and drew a diagram of the leaf showing the process. Another student created an illustration of the ecosystem in which she lives that included the various habitats within her ecosystem. In 8th grade Physics I am continually amazed with the details students include in their sketches of wet cell batteries! In the study of color, 8th graders discover the shortest and longest wavelength of the colors of the rainbow and I receive the most beautifully illustrated and colored rainbows! Through artistic exercises students clearly depict scientific concepts in their intricate drawings.

As you explore and observe the natural world around you, take some time to illustrate what you see! It can become a most wonderful pastime, or even a career! The website of The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators explains: “The principle task of the scientific illustrator is to prepare accurate renderings of scientific subjects. These illustrations are designed for reproduction in professional or popular journals in the field of natural sciences, textbooks, as museum exhibits, web sites, and many other applications. Scientific illustrations in both traditional and digital formats provide a visual explanation and aid the viewer by clarifying complex descriptive information. The function of a scientific illustration, therefore, is essentially a practical one: to inform, to explain, and to instruct — in short, to communicate.”

 Below is a wonderful example of a scientific subject illustrated and then put into digital format. ENJOY the Metamorphosis of the Butterfly from http://artorium.com/:

http://www.metamorphosis.urban-parks.org/

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